Martin Freeman walks away from Fargo for Cargo: an interesting zombie movie that swaps gore and spectacle for a beautifully human story. Coming across like a blend between Maggie and The Dead, Cargo sees Freeman’s character trying to find shelter for his infant daughter in an infected-plagued Australian outback.
As well as having a gorgeous palate to let misery loose in, Cargo features fantastic performances from its cast, but especially the infant daughter, who is beyond adorable. The end of Cargo is foreshadowed from the off, but it’s unlikely that you won’t be devastated by it all the same. A slow-burn post-apocalyptic movie that’s one of the best Netflix Originals you will come across.
Inarguably inspired by Mad Max, Turbo Kid is a more whimsical look at the post-apocalypse, though that isn’t to mean it holds any punches with the gore. Set in an alternate 1997, Turbo Kid follows its titular character as he scavenges wastelands for comic books and stuff he needs to survive.
There’s a heartwarming romance and naivety at the core of Turbo Kid, like its director was hoping for a modern counterpart to films like Stand By Me but turned up to 11. It’s visually arresting as well, which is made even more impressive by it being made on a dime — most studios pour millions upon millions into making a movie look, and even feel, as good as this.
Admittedly, this post-apocalypse only takes place in Britain as opposed to the entire world, but it does a fine job of showing the aftermath of the end of the days nonetheless. Who could forget the iconic image of Cillian Murphy confusedly traipsing over Westminster Bridge? The mere fact that the producers managed to close London down for a short time makes 28 Days Later worth a watch on its own.
28 Days Later is a landmark movie for many different reasons. As well as being the first mainstream film to be shot entirely digitally, it was also partially responsible for the “new wave” of running zombies in movies, even if The Infected aren’t technically members of the undead army. As a bonus, it’s also just straight-up an incredible film and its sequel has the distinct honour of being a horror sequel that doesn’t suck.
You can say what you like about I Am Legend (and most people have a strong opinion about it), but there’s no denying how visually impressive its first two thirds are. It’s, to boil it down to very simple terms, the American version of 28 Days Later.
Even if his performance has become meme fodder over the years, Will Smith’s portrayal of a terribly lonely survivor is a career highlight of his. With only his loyal dog for company, he must eke out a semblance of normal life while trying to find a vaccine for the botched cancer cure that killed most of the world and turned the rest into violent, bald lunatics. Some may prefer The Omega Man, but for sheer spectacle, I Am Legend gets the nod here.
If nothing else, the uncompromising Stake Land proved to people that vampires are much more effective when they don’t sparkle. Similarly to 30 Days of Night many years earlier, Stake Land showed just how unnerving a more visceral depiction of vampires can be.
After the death of his parents, a young boy pairs up with a vampire hunter to find a better life in New Eden and discover how to live life again along the way. It has some moments of sincerity, but Stake Land takes you on a bleak and grim journey that’s beautifully shot despite the ugliness at its heart. It has a sequel, but this is the one you should be watching.
Yep, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gets the nod over any of the original movies because, well, they don’t hold up that great. Where the Charlton Heston classic might now lean on the cheesier side of things, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes spins a gripping yarn that’s about apes as much as its humans.
After the simian virus wipes out humanity and also makes apes smarter, the two “factions” repeatedly butt heads despite the apes just wanting to be left well alone. As well as being a big-budget blockbuster, Dawn teaches some important lessons and left many viewers looking internally after the credits rolled. Do we really deserve to rule the world?
One of the more “offbeat” entries on this list, Twelve Monkeys has earned its status as a cult classic by being one of the last movies Bruce Willis cared about being in. Featuring a star-making turn from Brad Pitt and some of Terry Gilliam’s most unique visuals (which is really saying a lot), Twelve Monkeys was so good that they decided to turn it into a show for no reason.
When a virus sends the last vestiges of humanity underground, the only option left is to send Cole (Willis) back in time to stop it from ever being created with a cure. Imagine Terminator 2, but far weirder in the best way. While its effects may look somewhat basic now, Twelve Monkeys still oozes cool.
There are plenty of cult picks on this list, but Night of the Comet might be the very definition of a cult hit — I don’t think it would be right if you watched it on anything other than a VHS tape. The spirit of the eighties runs through its DNA, neon and all.
It’s not a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but Night of the Comet makes the most of its post-apocalyptic setting to be a whole lot of fun if nothing else. When a comet wipes out most of humanity and turns the unlucky few into zombies, a small group of survivors band together to survive and, erm, try on different outfits. Night of the Comet puts the “B” in B movie.
Considering how oppressively depressing most of the entries for our best post-apocalyptic movies have been, why don’t we finish things off with one of the most uplifting? WALL-E, from the childlike minds at Pixar, is about as far from the murder and zombies you will find above.
When humanity basically collapses in on itself, a megacorporation leaves behind automated robots to do clean the mess up as the remnants of humanity engorge themselves in space. We are quickly introduced to the titular WALL-E as he goes about his business before one day finding a sign of life on a ruined Earth. WALL-E is arguably at its best when it’s at its quietest, though you couldn’t ask for a better and more heartwarming antithesis to your typical post-apocalyptic movie.
20. Bird Box (2018)
More polarising than the North Pole using inverted controls while being inside a magnet, Bird Box is a Netflix exclusive that’s been the center of plenty discussion since it hit the streaming service, as well as more than a handful of memes. No too people seem to be able to agree on this one, and while it does have its flaws, it certainly has something to offer.
When a mysterious “creature” makes people want to kill themselves with a simple glimpse, what’s left of humanity must do all they can to survive — and not look. Sandra Bullock leads a strong cast that includes John Malkovich at his dastardly best. There are some seriously unforgettable setpieces (the burning car, anyone?), but try not to let the hype for this one give you unrealistic expectations. It’s a great but not revolutionary thriller that might have you covering your eyes.
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